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Ode to the Israeli bus drivers and other lessons from the Universe

"Coming home" -  an Israeli Egged bus
Coming from South Africa, a country with a very dismal public transportation system, I was happy to discover the wonderful public busses here in Israel. As Au Pairs, none or my friends nor I owned a car but we managed to criss-cross the country by bus. 

We went to Jerusalem, Masada, Tiberias and Haifa for the weekend. We even traveled to Eilat and Tsfat. Sometimes we would wait in the most obscure, in-the-middle-of nowhere bus stops for a bus that would always, eventually, come. One just needs a LOT of patience  :)

Often people complain about the rude bus drivers who can drive as if the highways belong to them. But for me they were, and still are, amazing people. In my first year here in Israel, one very helpful bus driver literally stopped the bus at the station where I needed to get off,  got off himself and walked with me to show me the bus stop where I had to catch my next bus.

Coming back late on a Saturday night on the last bus from Tel-Aviv, our bus driver would drive around my home town and drop the last few passengers in front of their homes. 

In my book, the Israeli bus drivers are good people.

And brave too.

Bus drivers also got killed and injured in the spate of suicide bombers we had here in Israel in the 1990's. One driver literally kicked a suicide bomber out of the bus and raced his passengers off to safety. In 2002 another bus driver helped to grab the hands of a suicide bomber so that he could not detonate the bomb strapped to him as the passengers fled the bus.

And in 2012, yet another Israeli bus driver saved lives when he heard the warning sirens of an incoming missile and told his passengers to vacate the bus immediately. Seconds later the bus was shredded into bits of metal and glass.

Hope they pay them some kind of danger pay!

I could not help but to compare the Israeli bus drivers to those of other countries I have visited. 

In Prague I shivered with other passengers at a bus stop as it started to snow while the bus driver sat cozy inside the bus. We were not allowed inside the bus until it was time. 

Here in Israel the bus drivers often leave the air conditioning on for the early boarders while they are stretching their legs outside. (Though when they leave the bus, it is locked up tight.)

In England, I could not buy a bus ticket if I did not had the EXACT right change. Here in Israel the bus drivers make change, chat to the passengers and drive the bus in crazy traffic.
Once a city bus driver even checked his map for me at every red traffic light until he helped me find the bus stop where I needed to get off.

And if you just missed the bus and start running after it, the Israeli bus driver will stop the bus, open the doors and let you in. A friend from Germany once commented that it will never 
happen in her country. If you miss the bus, you miss the bus.

But I have to add that you have to make some kind of real effort or the Israeli bus driver will not stop for you. You either have to sprint, holler real hard or wave  your arms like in the air like a crazy person. A combination of all three is the best. A half-hearted jog is NOT going to get the driver to step on the brakes for you.

So this is what I think the Universe teaches us via the bus drivers

1. Be kind and helpful
2. Be brave in the face of danger
3. Always be a human being 
4. It is okay to miss the bus sometimes (i.e. shit happens)
5. If you really want something, go for it with all of your might.

I really hope you might one day experience the kindness of Israeli bus drivers!

Marina Shemesh
Israel, June 2014


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